Choosing a Hypnotherapist
Be confident of your decision
Here in Washington State, hypnotherapists are considered to be "counselors" and are subject to the same regulations. Here's a definition of what the state says a counselor is:
An individual, practitioner, therapist, or analyst who engages in the practice of counseling to the public for a fee, including hypnotherapists. Counselors, for a fee, offer, assist or attempt to assist an individual or individuals in the amelioration or adjustment of mental, emotional, or behavioral problems, including therapeutic techniques to achieve sensitivity and awareness of self and others and the development of human potential.
If your hypnotherapist uses the word "certified", ask to see that certification. In this context, "certified" means "officially recognized". A certification should be independently verifiable. That means that you as a client should be able to easily confirm not just that the certification exists, but also the reputation of the organizing that issued it. The State of Washington is very clear that the state registration is not a certification. It is unethical for a hypnotherapist to claim certifications they are not entitled to and it should be a huge warning sign. My certification is through the National Guild of Hypnotists, the largest and one of the oldest professional organizations for those using hypnosis in therapy.
Sadly, no law prevents anyone from claiming to "certify" anyone else. You should verify the claims of "certification". Because hypnotherapy is unregulated in most states, not all organizations are created equal. People have even been known to sell "certification", even to those who are not qualified, as a money-making scheme. Check out the claims. Look at who accredits the certifiers. A "certification" is only as good as the person or organization who issues it.
In the State of Washington, you must be registered with the Department of Health to describe yourself as a "hypnotherapist" or to "practice hypnotherapy." You can read the law here: RCW 18.19.035. As part of the disclosure process, a hypnotherapist is required to provide you with their registration number when you first meet with them. Each registered hypnotherapist receives a certificate from the state, with a matching wallet identification card. Mine looks like this. Asking to see this is a great way to make sure your hypnotherapist is legal. Keep in mind that you can look up the status of your hypnotherapist here on the Department of Health website either by name or by that registration number. The Washington State registration system exists for your protection. By registering hypnotherapists, you know that the state has conducted a background check of the hypnotherapist and you can be confident that if any disciplinary action has occurred against that hypnotherapist, you can easily find out about it. Here's a screen capture from the Department of Health website showing what you will see when you look me up.
You should also ask to see the state-issued business license for your hypnotherapist. The law in Washington says that license must be posted where you can clearly see it. If not, ask to see it.
I mentioned "disclosure". As it turns out, there's a bunch of things a legal hypnotherapist needs to go over with you when you first start seeing them. You can read the law for yourself here: RCW 18.19.060. The state also provides a great tri-fold handout that summarizes a lot of things you should know before you work with a hypnotherapist. I have a copy here or you can get it from the state site here. You can view a copy of my disclosure form in advance in my forms library, located here.
Did you know that the law in Washington does not require hypnotherapists to be insured? I can't even imagine the thought process behind that oversight, but my thinking is that no responsible hypnotherapist should operate without Mental Health Counselor Insurance. Insurance may not be important to you, but even so, it might be a clue about how seriously your hypnotherapist takes your safety. Feel free to ask your hypnotherapist if they are insured.
They say you can know someone by the company they keep. Professional association memberships are a way to verify the background of your hypnotherapist, but only if you can verify the reputation of the association itself. For example, I am certified by the National Guild of Hypnotists as a Hypnotherapist. You can look them up here and discover that they have been around for 60+ years, are a virtual "who's who" of hypnosis, and they have a well established and reviewed process to vet members before they certify them. Further searching on The Guild in Google will confirm their standing and by association, that of their members and certifications. Members in good standing of The National Guild of Hypnotists get a certificate and a wallet card, ask to see the card. Click here to see mine. The National Guild of Hypnotists was recognized by the 103rd Congress of the United States for their efforts toward establishing and maintaining a high code of ethics, as well as educational resources regarding hypnosis and hypnotherapy.
You'll find that education is a lot like associations, you are going to need to do some research. Not all schools are created equal, and some folks define the term "accredited" differently than the rest of us. You can look-up my school, the Hypnosis Motivation Institute at the United States Department of Education site. There you will find that the program I graduated from is nationally accredited. Here's a capture of the site showing what an accredited program looks like. You can look up the school of your hypnotherapist as well. Do your research; you will never regret it.
Sadly, again, people "accredit" themselves, their friends and so on. There's a lot of people advertising weekend workshops to "become accredited as a hypnotherapist." Both the education and the hypnotherapists should raise red flags in that case. In my case, the diploma program alone included more than 300 hours of education, then more than 200 hours of supervised time with clients before they would certify me as a "hypnotherapist," able to practice on my own. That's more than 500 hours of supervised education in a nationally recognized and accredited program, plus nearly 200 more hours for my additional certifications, which you can see listed on my "Credentials" page. You can view more about the various accreditations of my school, HMI, here.
You will need to decide for yourself how important it is that your hypnotherapist has formal certifications that are verifiable. I know of hypnotherapists who will book any client who makes an appointment, even if they have never even heard of the problem that is to be addressed. I have ethical problems with that, but it's technically legal.
Continuing education may be another priority for you. How recently has your hypnotherapist updated their skills? While the basics of hypnosis are more than four thousand years old, techniques, applications, and current thinking are always changing. There are many ways to stay up to date, so ask your hypnotherapist how they do it.
Hypnosis is all about "rapport." The better you get along with your hypnotherapist, to more likely you are to get good results. You should feel good about meeting with your hypnotherapist like you have found a "partner in crime" who is going to stick with you and take a personal interest in you. Their voice should make you want to make progress. It doesn't have to be relaxing necessarily, but if it's grating, that is going to have an adverse effect. Your hypnotherapist should make you feel comfortable and at ease. You should not feel pressured or unsupported. The conversation should be open and honest, and you should be able to talk about anything.
Choose a hypnotherapist who practices in areas that match your beliefs. If you believe in past lives, psychic abilities, auras, crystals and so on, look for a hypnotherapist who does too. If you would prefer someone more science-based look for someone like me who practices "medical" or "clinical" hypnotherapy.
Think of your first meeting with a hypnotherapist as an audition. The required paperwork should be in order. The therapist should answer any and all questions you have, and if you don't have any questions, they should walk you through what to expect and give you a chance to ask questions along the way. Things should proceed on your timeline, not that of the hypnotherapist. Be suspicious of vague explanations and requests for prepayment for multiple sessions, unless you are buying a package deal of some sort.
Hypnosis is about trusting in yourself. Before you even get started, listen to that little voice in your head. Check the credentials, verify the training and associations. Be 100% sure your hypnotherapist meets your needs and that you can work with them before you ever close your eyes. It makes sense to be a little nervous, we were all nervous the first time, but you should have no doubts that your hypnotherapist can handle anything that comes up and take you through it with style.